Beth Paulson Talks Poetry

Fall Guest of the Contemporary Writer Series

Marisa Cardin

Senior Staff Writer

Beth Paulson with the Contemporary Writers Series interns. Photo by Marisa Cardin.
Beth Paulson with the Contemporary Writers Series interns. Photo by Marisa Cardin.

Last Wednesday, Nov. 30, Beth Paulson visited Western for a poetry reading and a craft talk. Though it had been a number of years since her last visit to the school, she commented that she “was honored to be reading here again.” Paulson spoke to a room full of Western students, faculty, and community members, and read from her new book Immensity, a poetry book about the universe and its vastness. When introducing the concept of her book, she said that she really enjoyed using so many scientific words and terms within her poetry, though she is no scientist herself. “I use the natural world as my canvas, but have stretched it out to include the whole universe,” Paulson said. Her words seemed to be well received by English major and non-English majors alike, all of whom seemed eager to clap after every performance she gave.

Paulson opened the reading with a rather fitting quote by Albert Einstein: “…creating a new theory is not like destroying an old barn and erecting a skyscraper in its place. It is rather like climbing a mountain, gaining new and wider views, discovering unexpected connections between our starting point and its rich environment.  But the point from which we started out still exists and can be seen, although it appears smaller and forms a tiny part of our broad view gained by the mastery of the obstacles on our adventurous way up.” Truly, climbing a mountain could be much like writing a poem, especially for Paulson as she described writing about scientific methods she had trouble understanding. She encouraged writers to listen to things they did not know, in order to gain a better understanding of the world around them and the world in which they reside.

Paulson’s poem “All Or Nothing” seemed to be a particular audience pleaser: “Both absence and presence, you are the hole inside the empty bucket, biblical void, wholly ghost, suffused with unknown potential, proof that something comes from nothing. Without you everything would be lost. You are the white paper for my uncertain pen. You are the air I step through above this broken sidewalk.”

Whether this is about the immensity of the universe or the immensity of ourselves is up to the reader to decide. Please join the Contemporary Writer Series next April for our next guest writers!